As always it was something that started on social media and then morphed on to the traditional news platforms, as seems to be the latest trajectory of news these days.
We might think that Black First Land First (BLF) leader Andile Mngxitama is a straw man, a failed EFF-looter and a Gupta-bot to boot, but that doesn’t make his utterances, captured on video at a rally last Saturday and then posted for posterity on Twitter, any less loathsome.
It doesn’t make his race hate exhortations - which are not too far removed from Everyone’s Favourite Fascists - any the less dangerous.
Racism cuts both ways, it’s ugly and it’s appalling and two wrongs certainly don’t make a right. We saw that in Rwanda, when the Hutus turned on the previously privileged Tutsis.
Last month was the 80th anniversary of Kristallnacht in Germany, the start of what would ultimately become the “final solution” to rid Germany, and Europe, of its Jewish citizens.
No one needs reminding of what happened in either Rwanda or Germany, but the truth is that we have forgotten the conditioning that took place beforehand.
We forget the institutionalisation of racism, the targeting of journalists and the immediate and brutal bullying of any potential dissent.
You don’t have to look too far to see the similarities between then and now. We don’t need new laws to combat this; ask Penny Sparrow, Vicki Momberg, Adam Catzavelos, Kessie Nair or even Mabel Jansen. We just need the ones we have implemented without fear or favour.
Mngxitama should be jailed, but he won’t be because there’s a belief that runs through too many of us that white privilege is so entrenched that any reaction to exhortations to “slit the throat of white privilege” (Malema), or threats “For every black person, we will kill five white people, their wives, their children, their pets”, is just a typical frightened white over-reaction to colourful figures of speech.
It’s started in earnest. Mngxitama, say his many defenders, was speaking about self-defence in the wake of Johann Rupert’s interview the week before. It’s ludicrous, or it would be anywhere else, but not here, not now.
But this being South Africa, for every awful moment there’s something that makes us just want to jump with joy - weep even - for the privilege of being South African.
Karen Zoid got 56 musicians together from all over South Africa to record The Crossing, a hauntingly beautiful song Johnny Clegg wrote in 1993 about Dudu Ndlovu, his Juluka drummer and fellow dancer assassinated in the KZN killing fields, that is a wonderful reflection on the beauty and joy of life - and its fragility.
It’s about the journey to get beyond the dark place. The music video that went viral is amazing. Watch it. It’s not just a tribute to a South African legend fighting the biggest battle of his life, pancreatic cancer, but it’s also about helping kids, especially the poor and underprivileged, to live their best lives. They won’t be growing up to kill anyone. They’ll be too busy living.
Maybe the Click Foundation can give Mngxitama the app to use in jail.
* Ritchie is a media consultant. He is a former journalist and newspaper editor.
** The views expressed here are not necessarily those of Independent Media.